One Last Time

Hey y'all. It's been a while. I have known for a while now that this would be one of the hardest ones to write and I hadn't been quite ready for it. I took the day off today so I figured this was a good day for this. I try to be real and raw and brutally honest in these, so I know this will be the one that guts me.
When I was, I guess 3 years old or so, maybe a little younger, I started going to construction job sites with my Dad. General Superintendent in major commercial construction. Same as his Dad, my Papa. We'd go in the job trailer, he would work, I would clean. At three years old. I remember thinking I can do this and this will help him. Me sweeping up dirt in a construction site work trailer. For perspective, I was three and my Dad was a 6.3' oak tree. Someone once told me he eclipsed the sun on the football field. So there I was three years old, with the hulk as my Daddy. The guys would come in - carpenters, architects, concrete, welders, electricians - all of them. I would get so mad at them because I'd clean and they'd track mud and dirt back in. I would fuss at them furiously, and you can imagine dust and mud covered carpenters coming in to talk to their boss in the dirty construction trailer and walking into an irate toddler squuealing about their muddy boots. My Dad would just look at them as they would either apologize, run away, or go clean their boots off. A construction trailer without dust and dirt and mud is like a barn with no hay or shavings or dirt in it. It's never going to happen. It's what they're meant for. My Dad would take me to lunch and shopping after we left the job site. For me, he hung the moon and for him, I was the moon. I was the poster of Daddy's Girl.
As I got older and hit puberty, I'd pull up in the parking lot or get out of his truck - someone would whistle at me, and it took about 7 seconds for the word to spread I was his daughter and the workers would scatter. Even as a teenager, my Dad still hung the moon. I had Sadie three days before I turned 16, and now this hulk of a man had a daughter and a granddaughter - he'd move heaven and earth and hell for us both. A few years later, I would marry, move to the coast, find myself in a bad marriage, and withdrew from my Dad. I was lost and just buried myself into finding my own way. When I moved back, my parents separated, my Dad was depressed, and shortly after that, my own marriage fell apart. We became very close again. We got each other through. I had my Daddy back.
We both began dating again. We'd share dating stories over a beer at the bar and laugh about what the hell are we doing and just the absurdity of the dating pool. He was my best friend. He met someone who he would later marry, I moved to St Louis, our lives moved on. We remained close for a few years after that point until we slowly started fading out of each other's lives more and more.
Something I need to explain about my Dad, and it was just who and how we was, is that while my Dad loved everyone, and he would protect his family and friends to the death wrapped in with incredible generosity and humor, he didn't know how to show attention and affection to more than one person at a time. Growing up it was all given to me, and I know that was hard on my Mom. I got that again from him after they separated, and then it was on his new wife. He always loved me but he couldn't be close to two people. He just simply didn't know how.
So after I moved here, I needed to have something with my Dad, something that tied us together and without a doubt, it was always construction. I'd call him at lunch and talk about the parking garage being built beside my office building, he'd tell me about his current jobs. Have to throw in there, he was an accomplished contractor - Gibson Guitar, two wings at St Jude, Target House II, Memphis Zoo, the renovation/rebuild of the National Civil Rights Museum - there is no corner of Memphis TN that my Dad didn't leave his legacy on. We talked about them all. When we had nothing else in common, we had this. We had it since I was toddler. We talked about him building Dixie Grace a custom building someday and everything he'd do with it. He knew we'd get there some day, and for me I couldn't see it but I was hopeful. Some day Dad. Some day.
When his Dad died, he became severely depressed and his health downward spiraled, I went back twice because we thought we'd lose him - that's how sick he was. I'd prepared for it. I saw my Dad Christmas of 2019 and thinking how miserable he must be to be such a physical working man dwindled down to a wheelchair. It broke my heart. He told me I got this. And he did. He went from a wheelchair to walking to driving again by August of 2020. He was in a nursing home in diapers on his death bed middle of 2019, and in less than a year, he rehabilitated himself (no PT because of Covid regs) and was driving again y'all. He did it all by himself day in and day out. He couldn't take the risk of getting Covid so we didn't visit but the talk about him going back to work for one more job became a hot topic, along with building a building for Dixie Grace.
In September of 2020, I got a call that he'd been admitted to the ER for an infection. He was vented within 12 hours. Two weeks later, I walked into the ICU and held his hand. I asked him if he was ready to go home, and my unresponsive father opened his eyes and shook his head yes. It took less than twenty minutes after the vent was removed for my Dad to go meet his Dad on the other side.
When this process started last year, I sat at a conference table with commercial developers and cried through half of the meeting. It hasn't changed. I got the plans and sat at my desk and sobbed. The incredible amount of work that the entire Dixie Grace Team has put in to get here, this HUGE accomplishment, slices my soul like a razor. I don't even feel the cut until it's laid open and bleeding out in the middle of whatever we are working on. I make it through birthdays, anniversaries, death dates, my grandmother who still cries for her son daily - I make it through them all and have. But this, THIS was ours and doing it without him, I don't know how to do this.
But the show must go on... And so do I. What a conundrum. I didn't know one of the biggest accomplishments of my entire life would be met with such pain. So, if you see me get choked up, cry, curl in a ball, or hide for a minute in the process of this new incredible place we get to call home - this is why. Something that brings me so much joy, happiness, and pride also brings overwhelming grief - a war of emotion inside of me that I don't always know how to process. Make no mistake - I will continue to march forward with my Dad and my Grandpas on my shoulders, but I am humbled by sadness as I do it. I have complete faith they gave me everything I needed while they were here to do this, but I'm still finding my courage to do it without them.
I'll end this by saying thank you. YOU are the reason for this and there is not a single day that goes by without me knowing that and being eternally grateful for each of you. I didn't know that a candle on a dining room table and my belief in doing the work (given to me by them) would build an incredible team, a village, and an army of customers that believed in us and our work, that it would build something so beyond myself. Dixie Grace tells her own story now, and it's never been just mine. It's all of YOU. I hope that each of you know that. That your story with us means just as much as each of ours. We are going to bring you a place to see that and I couldn't be more excited or humbled by it.
Here's to you Dad. We did it. I need you to take the reins for me this one last time.
My cup runneth over.